Why Use a Food Thermometer?
It is essential to use a food thermometer when cooking meat, poultry, seafood, egg products and vegetables to prevent undercooking, verify that food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature, and consequently, prevent foodborne illness for you and your loved ones. Yes, it includes your customers!
Using a food thermometer is the only reliable way to ensure safety and to determine desired “doneness” of meat, poultry, and egg products. To be safe, these foods must be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy any harmful microorganisms that may be in the food.
Color is Not a Reliable Indicator
Many food handlers believe that visible indicators, such as color changes, can be used to determine if foods are cooked to a point where pathogens are killed. However, recent research has shown that color and texture indicators are unreliable.
Safety Versus Doneness
Cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures. A food thermometer should also be used to ensure that cooked food is held at safe temperatures until served. Cold foods should be held at 40°F or below. Hot food should be kept hot at 140°F or above.
Types of Thermometers
Food thermometers come in several types and styles, and vary in level of technology and price.
1. Digital Food Thermometers
Thermocouple: Of all food thermometers, thermocouple thermometers reach and display the final temperature the fastest – within 2 to 5 seconds. The temperature is indicated on a digital display. Thermocouples are not designed to remain in the food while it’s cooking. They should be used near the end of the estimated cooking time to check for final cooking temperatures.
Thermistors: Thermistors are not designed to remain in the food while it’s cooking. They should be used near the end of the estimated cooking time to check for final cooking temperatures. To prevent overcooking, check the temperature before the food is expected to finish cooking.
Oven Cord Thermometers: This food thermometer allows the cook to check the temperature of food in the oven without opening the oven door.
Thermometer Fork Combination: The thermometer fork should be used to check the temperature of a food towards the end of the estimated cooking time. Thermometer forks are not designed to remain in a food while in the oven or on the grill.
2. Dial Food Thermometers
3. Bimetallic-coil Thermometers
4.“Oven-safe” Bimetallic-coil Thermometers
5. “Instant Read” Bimetallic-coil Thermometers
6. Pop-Up Timers
Other Types of Food Thermometers
7. Liquid-filled Thermometers
8. Candy/Jelly/Deep Fry Thermometers
9. Appliance Thermometers
10. Refrigerator/ Freezer Thermometers
11. Oven Thermometers
Safety and Doneness
Most pathogens are destroyed between 140°F and 165°F. Higher temperatures may be necessary to achieve consumer acceptability and palatability, also known as “doneness.”
These temperatures are recommended for consumer cooking. They are not intended for processing, institutional, or foodservice preparation. Food service professionals should consult their state or local food code.
Recommended Internal Temperatures (°F) for Consumers
Note: If you are operating a food service operation, please check your local laws and regulations!
Ground Meat & Meat Mixtures
Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb (160)
Turkey, Chicken (165)
Fresh Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb
Beef, Pork, Veal, & Lamb (steaks, roasts and chops) (145)
Fresh (raw) or “cook-before-eating” (145)
Pre-cooked (to reheat) (140)
Chicken, Turkey, Duck & Goose (whole or pieces) (165)
Poultry breasts, roasts (165)
Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird) (165)
Eggs and Egg Dishes
Eggs (Cook until yolk and white are firm)
Egg dishes (160)
Leftovers and Casseroles (165)
Thermometer Care: As with any cooking utensil, food thermometers should be washed with hot soapy water. Most thermometers should not be immersed in water. Wash carefully by hand.
“Is it done yet?” You can’t tell by looking. Use a food thermometer to be sure.